Ethical Culture at the Workplace


Ethics is understood as the criteria applied when making decisions concerning to what is right and what is wrong or regarding to what is good or what is bad. It is considered as the standard for human behavior and moral judgment, this is scientific understanding of ethics; and businesswise, ethics is defined as the measure of human judgment and moral conduct in business environment. Ethics define human interactions concerning how we think and also our behavior towards others. There exist both ethical principles and business ethics.

Ethics originate from many sources which include: religious beliefs, family background, school, media and community influence where an individual can acquire acceptable behavior. There are several theories that have been put forward to explain ethics. These theories are: absolutism which suggests that ethics and matters of morally are absolute, whether specific or general. Another theory is relativism which is of the position that matters of ethics are not universal or conventional but are relative to culture or individual society (Center for Ethical Business Cultures, 2001). This essay discusses ethical issues in the light of a company in Saudi Arabia which is Saudi Aramco.

Ethical Culture at Work

It has been a hard task for organizations to develop, initiate or measure ethical culture. Ethical culture in a work place has an effect on the following aspects of the organization: efficiency, effectiveness, turnover or output, job commitment and stress. Ethical culture is necessary for the ethical functioning of an organization.

The ethical culture of an organization is imprinted in instructions: it begins by the writing down of all codes of ethics in the form of a mission statement that the employees will be aware of. There should be personal code of ethics and corporate code of ethics which are subjected to revision. Ethical issues can not be separated from the daily business activities and they should be made to be individual responsibilities. The following are the factors that determine ethical behavior in a work place:

Superiors’ behaviors

The management of an organization can act ethically in the following ways: educating employees on ethics, honoring their promises and acting ethically in the course of executing their duties.

Peer influence

How employees perceive the behavior of their fellow employees is likely to impact on their ethical behaviors. They may replicate the behaviors of their fellow employees.

Industry’s ethical practices

The daily ethical practices of a company will be emulated by its employees and will just be considered as normal. The ethical behaviors of employees are defined by the industry that they work in.

Moral climate of the society

The society can also set the tone of ethical culture in a work place environment. The society has the responsibility to nurture and to inculcate good ethical values in an individual. These values are likely to put a lasting impression throughout the life of an individual (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, n.d.).

Saudi Aramco has strong ethical polices that are followed and implemented to the letter. The policies govern all the individuals that transact business on behalf of the company and the management and junior employees endeavor to fully understand the ethical polices and code of ethics. Saudi Aramco encourages its employees to report any unethical behavior or any suspected violation of the rules, laws or regulations of the company through an established channel.

Main Ethical Principles at Work

Ethical principles are the general statements that define the ways on how people should act or should not act. Ethics are considered to be the reasons behind individuals’ thoughts, beliefs and actions in any interactive coexistence. Every work place should have ethical beliefs that are universal. Among the prevalent ethical principles in a work place are: respect for others, honoring promises, honest, assuming responsibility for yourself, acting in the best interest of other people, being fair and helping others. In a workplace, skepticism emerges from the following two perspectives:

Relativism: this is the belief that ethical values vary widely and that there can not be a universal code of ethics and hence they do not apply to anyone. Not all persons or employees agree on what is right or what ought to be wrong. The most profound criticism of ethics is legalism. Legalism is the belief that there are laws and rules that dictate what is right and what is wrong.

Every business has its own ethical principles and guidelines. They include: environmentally sound business premises, purpose, honesty and fairness and personal responsibility. Regarding Saudi Aramco company, the following are their ethical policies: Carefully selecting customers that they can transact business with; they avoid business transaction and deals with drug traffickers, money launderer and any other crime related groups.

The company also keeps confidentiality about customer and employee information and they ensure that their employees do not enter into contracts with their competitors. Consequently, at Saudi Aramco, the following principles are adhered to: all decision must conform to the company’s code of ethics and the relevant laws, employees must be trustworthy and honest to enhance their global competitiveness and respect for human dignity (Center for Ethical Business Cultures, 2001).

The extent that managers should set ethical tone of a company

The practice of building an ethical culture in a business environment has been increasingly shifted to the managers and the CEOs due to their responsibility of formulating practices and organizational procedures. Employees find role models in their managers and therefore the management must set high ethical standards for their employees.

The creation and sustenance of ethical work place culture begin with the top management and trickles down to the bottom of the organization. Ethical leadership is about performance, character and principled conduct. Employees model after the management when they see ethical values and actions being practiced by the management. A strong ethical foundation is a necessity for the financial and physical protection of the company.

Managers should be guided by ‘tone at the top’ principle which implies that an ethical culture and behavior in a work place should be created by the top leadership. This is due to the assumption that if an ethical and integrity tone is set by the management of the company, then the employees will be obligated to follow or to adopt the same culture. Employees always pay close attention to the actions of their bosses.

The management can encourage ethical practices through information and explanation so that employees get to know all the unethical behaviors. The promotion of ethical behavior by the management can be achieved through the following means: rewarding and disciplining employees and to encourage them to be responsible.

Main unethical Behaviors at Work Place

Ethics is founded on recognizing certain human rights. It is imperative that employers have the sole responsibility to ensure that employees behave according to the company policies; however, the following are the unethical behaviors in every workplace:

Deliberate deception

This concerns an employee taking credit for a job or duty that was performed by another employee. Deception also includes faking sickness to abstain from duty and sabotaging the work of another employee. This might lead to retaliation, conflict and lack of trust among employees. Other unethical behaviors are: making long private or social calls by using a company line, duplications of software to be used at home and embezzlement of funds. A chief Finance Officer can also act unethically by embezzling funds from his employees or by preparing and falsifying financial statements to make it appear like a company is performing well.

Another example of an unethical behavior is that which emanates from corporate pressure like an accountant who feels pressure from his client to report false financial statement or if he does so following pressure from the board of directors.

It is the responsibility of the management to end unethical behavior by applying the following mechanism: first, they should explain the unethical behavior to the employees, provide the interventions, exercise of disciplinary measure and also they should develop a follow up mechanisms to ensure that similar cases of unethical behaviors are not repeated.

Harassment is also another unethical issue in work places: all forms of sexual harassment in a work place are considered as unethical. This encompasses discrimination based on sex or gender and sexual orientation. Any harassment in a workplace needs to be confronted (Ardichvili, Jondle & Mitchell, 2009).

Ethical safeguards that can be adopted by a company

Ethical safeguards are understood as the intentional measures and programs that are used in an organization to curb cases of unethical behavior and can be used as a tool to encourage ethical practices. Ethical safeguards are the mechanisms, structures and the pronouncements that are used to regulate ethical conduct in an organization. The ethics code is the most utilized form of ethical safeguard and it is the central point of any organization when reference is made to ethical safeguards (Von der Embse, Desai & Ofori-Brobby, 2010).

In every company, there is a corporate code of ethics that stipulates the company’s ethical standards and principles. The code of ethics may include laid down ideals. The code of conduct also stipulates the guidelines on various policies and policy position of the company like sexual harassment and indicates the consequences for violation of specific ethical behavior principles.

The code of ethics, which is the fundamental form of ethical safeguard, is necessary since it promotes ethical behavior in the entire organization and may help reduce liabilities that may face the organization in a court of law. Providing safeguard can also be achieved though conducting of an audit as a step to ensure that the code of ethics of the organization is protected and upheld (Von der Embse, Desai & Ofori-Brobby, 2010).

Progress from the Safeguards

The safeguards especially the code of ethics has facilitated the provision of guidance to managers and employees on the action to be taken incase of ethical dilemma. Code of ethics has overtaken all other ethical safeguards. A lot of emphasis has been placed on the significance of code of ethics at the expense of other measures. The code of ethics is seldom revised and some codes may be overtaken by events. Among the ignored measures are: conversation and training which can mak employees conversant, altering the procedure or the manuals that are regularly given to the employees. Others are organizational rules, compliance procedures and corporate polices.

Recommendation of safeguards that can limit unethical behaviors at workplace

Several employees are not informed about the ethical policies in their companies. This is largely due to limited safeguards that are utilized by the company(Jondle, Kowske & Shoemake, n.d). The following are the ethical safeguards that minimize unethical behaviors in organizations:

  • Regular training and seminars for employees to make them conversant with the code of ethics of the organization.
  • Ethical polices must be revised regularly to make them up to date and relevant.


Ethical culture plays a fundamental role in addressing specific unethical behaviors that are among employees. Unethical behaviors and decision making are associated with weak ethical culture of an organization where unacceptable behaviors are not defined or where ethical culture is not promoted. An effective ethical culture in an organization contributes to ethical decisions and better conduct by the company employees. It is also evident from the discussion that good ethical culture facilitates the realization of company objectives by the employees and enhances efficient, fair and honesty delivery of services hence better reputation for a company.


Ardichvili, A, Jondle, D, & Mitchell, J. (2009). Characteristics of ethical business. cultures. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(1), 445-451.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. (n.d). Tone at the top: how management can prevent fraud in the workplace. Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Web.

Center for Ethical Business Cultures. (2001). The Minnesota Principles: Towards an ethical basis for global business. Minnesota Business Ethics Award. Web.

Jondle, D.J., Kowske, B & Shoemake, R.C. (n.d). Assessing the ethical culture. Ethics Resource centre. Web.

Von der Embse, T, Desai, M & Ofori-Brobbe, K. (2010). A new perspective on ethics safeguards: where is the clout? Find Articles. Web.

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